Jumping off the Carousel

Having seen many people over the years changing employer more frequently than they change their preferred beverage, these people generally spin around on a carousel without actually getting anywhere career or money wise. What is the best way to further your career, and what can employers do to help you to mutual success?

I’ve been asked this many times over the years, and perhaps unremarkably the advice really hasn’t changed. Universities and education institutions really don’t help when they promote that “the jobs you will be doing in the future haven’t even been created yet”. Nowadays I’m not sure if they are referring to the obsolescence of some roles as Artificial Intelligence risks taking over anything from call centres to solicitors.

Not wanting to quash aspiration too much, but it seems that very few people want to start at the bottom and expect to climb the management ladder well before having any achievements or having developed any skills to match the requirements. A good way to explain it is that there is only 1 CEO of BHP, and many of the senior roles in large companies aren’t even filled by Australians. By contrast, there are 5.5 million Australians with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Since the day when Gillard started to dilute the value of University education (saying everyone should have one) a further 37,000 business graduates alone are now joining the list ever year.

This has led to a situation where there are too many wannabe chiefs and not enough doers. We are yet to see the surge of people undertaking vocational training and apprenticeships, which is a blight on businesses and the education sector alike. Generally a lot of these roles will be more future proof than careers providing intangibles.

If I had a day off for every young applicant that told me they wanted an apprenticeship with us so they could go to the mines for the rates of pay, I’d never be in the office. As an employer, we’d much rather invest our time and money in training someone who wants to grow with our business. That’s not to say they’ll always be an employee with us, as we’ve been happy to give a leg up and continue to give work to many people who decided to venture out into the risks and potential rewards of running their own small business.

There is a truism in recruitment: on average, you’ll get average. For a business, the key is to work out which ones have the potential to learn and develop. When most people start in a role, they generally learn and improve for 3-6 months, then commonly fall in a hole (in some cases being worse than even when they started). This is why constant feedback during the probation period is so critical, because terminating the employment means a failure somewhere in this process, with the employee having been a dead weight on the business (for instance having experienced colleagues invest their efforts into sharing knowledge). Standards usually improve from then on, but a rule of thumb is that it is only after the first year of employment that an employer see’s a financial return on the investment from a new employee. So if a resume is full of short term job hopping, it’s unlikely anyone other than really desperate employers will put any effort into you.

What the carousel riders don’t understand is that they need to stick around long enough to be recognised, and to be willing to put in the effort to learn. Many employers look for some kind of piece of paper to tell them if a person is a good fit to a role (whether that’s a degree or even some aptitude/psychological test). I believe nearly anyone with ability can be trained in the skills to do a job, and therefore the key employment criteria becomes attitude.

Attitude can’t be trained. A good employer will look at what you have learned over what your grades were. Along the lines of my “No common sense” article, many of those with the highest grades rote learned and can’t apply what they should know in a real world context. Having the right cultural fit is also essential. People perform better and not least are happier if they have a passion and enjoy what they are doing. After all, we spend more awake time at work each week than we do with our own family. Passion can be hard to pick in a short interview, which is why the questions that rank highest in any interview I do is not any of the questions I ask, but what questions a candidate asks about our business.

Employers also need a re-think in relation to things like remuneration. This is why the “same job, same pay” legislation is so frightening: why should someone who is much less productive be paid the same as someone experienced or who simply understands the concept of being efficient and doing things of value? A common mistake is for employers to pay a new employee the same (or sometimes even more) than the valued and experienced staff – what kind of message does that send to those who have contributed to the business over the years?

There is also a historical hang up that remuneration reflects seniority. Not everyone is suited to a managerial position (and might not even want one). Scientists and engineers are an accepted example of where their strengths often lie in analysing and solving problems rather than having key skills like good communication or leadership skills.

Finally, if any of the carousel riders have managed to read this far, if you still think it’s a good idea to keep changing jobs for 50 cents (and you’re still not getting anywhere), maybe it’s time to reflect on that not that all employers are so bad, and the problem might not be their attitude but yours?

Words from the wise

Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it. – Lou Holtz

Attitude determines altitude (unknown source)

Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value. – Albert Einstein

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. – Albert Schweitzer

As always, Onwards and Upwards!

Fred Carlsson

General Manager

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